What is the most memorable piece of artwork your child has ever brought home from elementary school? Is it a drawing, a sculpture, a painting, or maybe a poem? Whatever it may be, did it take the position of honor on the refrigerator in your home? Did you put it on the mantle or put it in a frame and hang it on a wall? Late last school year, I was fortunate to have my then third grade son bring home a drawing that has become one of his most memorable to me.
I was taking my third grade son’s homework folder out of his backpack and saw a black piece of construction paper peaking out of the top of it. I opened the folder and inside it was the black paper folded in half. I took it out of his folder and unfolded it. What I saw put a smile on my face. He had drawn an expressively colorful, free flowing tree on the black piece of paper. Fortunately, it had not been folded and mangled in various different directions as seems to happen to many of the papers in his back pack. The drawing was only folded once down the middle. I immediately put the drawing aside and in a safe place so it wouldn’t get shuffled around with all the other papers he brings home.
I asked him about the drawing and he told me the tree that he had drawn was his version of the Tree of Life. Of course. Could there be any doubt that this was the Tree of Life? There was life drawn, colored and designed all over that black piece of paper. It breathes a kind of life and creativity that it seems only children can capture within their artwork and is a blessing to me as it reminds me of the preciousness and joy of life contained within the beauty of creation. This drawing on black construction paper turned into a gift that I will treasure always.
I need to go find a frame. I’m hanging this picture in my office!
I shared this passage about Christian love, written by Richard P. McBrien, with the senior high group that meets on Sunday evenings at First Presbyterian Church. I thought it beautifully illustrated two points. First, if we intend to love as Christ did, we must stop being consumed with ourselves. Second, the opposite of love is a lack of concern or apathy. Following is the quote from Catholicism found on page 939.
If we are really to love as Christ intends, we have to overcome our own narcissism. We must strive for objectivity in every situation and become sensitive to the situations where objectivity eludes us. We must see the difference between our picture of another and the other’s behavior, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the way the other really is, apart from our own interests, needs, fears, and “hang-ups.” Christian loving also means readiness to take risks, to accept pain and disappointment. It means using one’s human powers productively. Loving demands a state of intensity and commitment. Christian love cannot coexist with indifference. Indeed, the opposite of love is not hate but apathy, a lack of concern, a suspension of commitment (literally, apathy means to be “without pain”).
Making a commitment to “love as Christ intends” involves taking a risk and overcoming fear. If that is done, lives and communities will be changed through Christ’s love. Check out 1 Corinthians 13:1-2 and read what Paul has to say about Christian love.
Last summer, I taught my youngest son how to ride a bike. We were using the tried and true formal of me holding the bike upright as he climbed on. I would continue holding the back of the seat as he started to pedal wobbly with the bike swerving back and forth across the side walk.
I would start to push him faster while holding on to the seat and he would peddle faster in response. When we would get to what I though was a good speed, I would let him go. The first time I let go he went a little ways and fell into the grass along the sidewalk. I walked over, picked the bike up, and we repeated the process. He went a little way and fell in the grass again, and again and again. We kept doing this over and over and at one point he said to me “Dad, this is hard”. I told him “I know it is hard but sometimes we have to do things that are hard. Keep trying.”
After we had that brief exchange, I couldn’t help but think what a great example of God’s grace teaching my son how to ride a bike turned out to be. Especially an example of uncomfortable grace, like was mentioned by Paul David Tripp, in my previous post. God will put us in positions that we aren’t comfortable in so that we can grow through perseverance and struggle.
God has a bike for you that he wants you to learn to ride. It may be hard to ride at first and you may fall over and over again but God will keep picking up the bike and holding it for you to try again and again. God will make sure it stays on the sidewalk even though you are swerving back and forth unsteadily. You simply need to keep getting up and on the bike and to remember the most important thing – keep peddling.